Soldiers at checkpoint charlie: history repeats itself

Showmen in GI uniforms earn money with photos. After many complaints from tourists, the district no longer wants to tolerate this.

Discarded: Fake soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie Photo: dpa

Every day around quarter to nine, a kind of morning roll call takes place at Checkpoint Charlie. Then several GIs and their Russian opponents come out of some corner, push a cart towards the white control booth in the middle of the street and start their work.

This does not consist of checking identity papers or frisking vehicles, as was customary for many years at this border crossing between East and West Berlin. Rather, they want to show that here, right at the beginning – or end? – of the former American sector, capitalism has most certainly triumphed.

Because, of course, the soldiers are no more real than the white guard’s house that was erected at this wall fairground a good decade ago. They are people in disguise who take money from tourists for a photo of themselves. Apparently not in short supply, and apparently with vigor: complaints from citizens and tourists have recently increased, according to the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district office, under whose control the checkpoint is today. Passers-by have been urged or "downright coerced" to pay for a photo with the fake soldiers at the checkpoint.

Thus a social situation developed that is not entirely dissimilar to that on the eastern side of the Wall 30 years ago: resentment among the population coupled with grumbling about their own consumer behavior.

But while 30 years ago hundreds of thousands had to take to the streets to make border controls at the Wall a thing of the past, today all that is needed is an order from the district authority on whose terrain Checkpoint Charlie is located: "The operator has been informed that toleration is suspended with immediate effect and that he must expect prosecution for any infringement," it says.

Mitte banned the fake soldiers back in 2014

Tanks, which would be historically appropriate for the location, the district so far does not want to let drive up.

Allegedly, the decision was already made in August – but it only became known on Monday, just at the beginning of the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Coincidence? There have been discussions for quite some time about whether this hustle and bustle, which is also referred to as a "Mummenschanz," borrowing from carnival, is appropriate for the significance of the location. The Mitte district had already banned a similar rip-off at the Brandenburg Gate five years ago – with success.

This ban is now to be lifted at Checkpoint Charlie as well. Should the carnies resume their activities, the public order office will enforce the ban within the scope of its personnel capacities, the district announced, if necessary also with the support of the police. However, there is still no talk of tanks, which would be historically appropriate for the location.

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